On Thursday over at Parchment and Pen blog, C. Michael Patton posted an article entitled “Are Roman Catholics Saved?” In it he basically asks the question Rob Bell style, that is, asking a very complex question and not really answering it, but sort of leading you to adopt his view. He poses the question of whether RC’s are saved, and then a bit further he states
“Now, to be fair, the majority of Roman Catholics with whom I have come in contact I do not feel are true believers. But, to be fairer, the majority of Protestants (and Eastern Orthodox for that matter) with whom I have come in contact I don’t believe are true believers! It is the simple problem of nominalism. Simply confessing to be a part of any Christian tradition does not mean that one truly embraces the ideals of said tradition. Christians are those who truly believe in who Christ is and do their best to follow him.”
The glaring issue here is that brother Patton seems to have not let the centrality of the gospel enter the equation. The question is not “can a RC be saved?” The question rather is “does the RC Church have the gospel?” Remember Romans 1:16?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the powerof God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (NKJV)
(beginning of understatement) The gospel is pretty important if it is the power of God to salvation (end of understatement). It’s not a sacrament that is the power of God to salvation, it’s not a sincere commitment to a denomination or religious tradition, and the power of God to salvation is not, brother Patton, doing our “best to follow [Christ].”
Does Roman Catholicism have the Gospel of Christ, and what is it?
Because if it does not, then people who do have the gospel need to be sharing it with them, and praying for their salvation. In the RC religion, the tricky part is understanding how they teach biblical phrases with incorrect meanings underneath. Let’s take the Reformation angle to look at this. RC’s have a doctrine of “justification,” but its not the justification that the Bible teaches.
What does the Bible teach about justification? Simply put, you can’t earn it – it is a free gift given to those who place their trust in who Jesus is and what He has done on our behalf. This is another part of C. Michael Patton’s error – he asserts that faith in the right Jesus is salvation – yes and no. The Bible shows that not only must we know and believe in the true Jesus, but we must know and believe in what He has done for us. RC’s do not have the latter!
So then, justification is a one time declaration from God – a legal standing of “right/righteous” is given to us – the very standing that Jesus has and earned as a Man. How does God deal with our sinfulness? He cannot simply declare us righteous and perfect since we are anything but that. God places our sin on the sinless Jesus at the cross, and Jesus who wears our sin as if it were His own then is crushed by the punishment of God due to you and me. Perfect atonement. Romans 3:21-26, Isaiah 53:4-12 (yes, go read them).
We get His perfect standing before God, He died under our guilty standing before God, and paid for all our sin. We cannot earn or merit this gift – otherwise it is no longer a gift. Romans 11:5-6 (I’ll wait here while you read that one too).
Yet in RC we learn that in order to gain justification, we have to look past the cross-work of Jesus to something more – as if we need something else to fully complete the circuit… and what do you know? We are told that our standing with God now will depend on our response to God’s “grace.” I put quotes around grace there because in RC “grace” has a slightly different definition than what the Apostles taught – yet it makes an eternity of difference which one you adopt.
Again, Romans 11:5-6
So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Should we have to go on any further? If Paul is not speaking clearly here, then words have no meaning. One more place I will go for now, to Romans 5:1 to find out when justification happens. The RC teaching is that justification is an ongoing process which is initiated by God, enabled by God, and granted as a gift by God on the basis of our cooperation with sacraments like faith plus baptism, confession, and the others. This is sly and deadly. Adding to the gospel of grace and unmerited favor is like adding 3 to 100 to try and make 100 more perfectly 100. So when does justification take place? At a single point in our life when God declares us perfectly righteous on the basis of Christ’s Person and work alone, or as an ongoing process which is never sure and complete until we have done enough faithful things?
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1
Can’t make me say it!
After reading the Patton article, I spent some time making comments on his blog – my first comment starts at #48 here. Then I got a little more zealous and put this on Twitter: “Why I’m not Roman
#Catholic -Romans 5:1 Having BEEN JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, (and how much clearer could it get?) we have peace w God… #gospel”
A RC began to respond to me and use the standard lines about his Roman religion being the one true Church and the Bible being a product of it – to which I thanked him for the info, and asked what the tense of “having been justified” is in Romans 5:1. I will post the rest of our conversation here and leave you with that for now.
Thanks for reading,
@Doulos2Christou It’s not about tense, but context. Bible isn’t a simple document. Can’t pick & choose readings. Have to take it as a whole. @LettingSmokeOut does Romans 5:1mean what it says, or something different than what it says? What is the tense of the first clause? @Doulos2Christou You miss the point. We could play scripture shoot-out all day: for every one you provide I can counter. To what gain? @Doulos2Christou The Church existed for 300 years prior to the Bible. It put the Bible together at a Council. Thus, its the Church’s product @Doulos2Christou That proves the fault of private interpretation and the mistake of taking scripture out of context. That’s why are are over 30K denominations from the one Church. Either one interpreter or many. Jesus never used the word “church” in plural form. @LettingSmokeOut that’s all very interesting, your angle, but… In Ro 5:1, when are we justified in relation to the present?
Can’t make me say it!